They are medium-sized raptors who are part of the Accipitridae family. Red-tailed Hawks (whom are in the same family) look similar to Swainson’s Hawks, although, Red-tailed Hawks are larger in size, with a height of 22-27 inches, while Swainson’s have a height of 17-21 inches. Compared to other medium-sized raptors, Swainson’s Hawks have small talons, which means they hunt smaller prey.
Swainson’s Hawks live mostly in the northwestern area of North America. The hawks usually forage in open habitats like open grasslands, farmlands, or prairies. Swainson’s Hawks search for food (prey) in hay fields, alfalfa fields, or grain crops. In the fall, the hawks migrate to the southern area of South America.
These hawks will hunt, both by soaring over open areas, or by perching on a tree or a fence to scan the ground for prey. Swainson’s Hawks will sometimes compete with Great-horned Owls for nest sites (which is usually on prairies).
Nesting and Nestlings:
Courtship concludes of an elaborate display of circling and steep dives, called display flights. Pairs will nest on trees or shrubs, which are sometimes on large cliffs or slopes. Both genders construct the nest (with females usually doing less work than the male). The nest is made up of large sticks with a little grass and moss.
Females lay about 2-3, whitish eggs (usually with red-brown splotches). She incubates her eggs for about 34-35 days, during this time, the male brings her food to eat. At about 27-33 days after hatching, the nestlings start to climb out of their nest to explore the tree limbs. About 11-13 days afterwards, they become fledglings and learn to fly, although they stay near the nest for about 10-20 more days.
Swainson’s Hawks have small talons so they eat small mammals and reptiles like lizards or mice (mostly in early summer) eating mainly relatively large insects in other seasons, like dragonflies, grasshoppers and beetles.